SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Petroleum, oil and lubricants Airmen in training at the 364th Training Squadron at Sheppard AFB are getting a dose of reality after two civilian instructors recently participated in an innovative program that enhances teaching in the classroom.
Terry Petteway and Dale Johnson were part of a test-bed civilian outreach program that took the pair out of the classroom and onto an active flightline to experience the sights, sounds and actions of real-world operations with the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, Sept. 12-15, 2018. The result is a fresh approach to teaching the apprentices with fresh understandings of how crews work outside the training environment.
“It renewed my awareness of the expectation of what a student should expect when they go out there,” he said. “I teach the lesson. I tell a couple stories and I back out. It’s a renewed excitement for teaching. The last time I taught an apprentice class, all I could talk about was Cannon.”
Petteway served as an active-duty POL Airman for several years before becoming an instructor at Sheppard in 2009. For Johnson, things were a bit different. He was a civil engineering electrician for his roughly 20 years in the service and then an instructor in the 366th TRS when he was pulled over to the POL schoolhouse – also in the 366th TRS at the time – after 9/11.
Johnson said the only thing he knows about POL is what he has taught in the classroom for the past 17 years, and the outreach program enabled him to see operations such as an active fuel service center and laboratory as well as how night-vision goggles are used in Forward Area Refueling Point operations, for instance.
“I had a different kind of angle to try to teach them, but now I can incorporate some of the operational POL side of it into teaching,” he said.
Master Sgt. Joseph Speirs, fuels flight assistant flight chief, said the innovative program enhances practicum with practicality.
“You can read out loud the text and when students ask a question tell them they’ll have to find that out later at their first assignment,” he said. “This lets instructors understand the background of operations.”
Speirs said he was tasked several months ago by Capt. Angie Cox, 364th TRS director of operations, to develop a civilian outreach program that would send them in real-world POL units to see how daily operations function. It would give the instructors an idea of the transition POL students make from training at Sheppard AFB to flightline actions around the world.
The intent of the outreach program was accomplished with the first two participants, he said, and they are hoping to get other civilian instructors through. The program, though, could expand in the near future to include others.
Tools, devices and vehicles undergo changes based on career field needs, Speirs said. Like their civilian counterparts, military members out of the field and in the teaching environment lose sight of what’s being employed at bases around the world. Incorporating military members in the outreach program will help them stay abreast to what’s happening in the operational world.
The assistant flight chief said they want to get all interested fuels flight civilian instructors through the outreach program before broadening the scope.